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Margaret Heffernan
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Margaret Heffernan is a businesswoman who now writes about business because nothing she read captured the reality of running companies.

She spent thirteen years working for one large corporation - the British Broadcasting Corporation - where she wrote, directed and produced radio plays and documentaries. Moving to television, she designed and executive produced plays and documentaries, including a thirteen part series on The French Revolution for the BBC and A&E. The series featured, among others, Alan Rickman, Alfred Molina, Janet Suzman, Simon Callow and Jim Broadbent and introduced both historian Simon Schama and playwright Peter Barnes to British television. She also produced music videos with Virgin Records and the London Chamber Orchestra to raise attention and funds for Unicef's Lebanese fund.

Leaving the BBC, she ran the trade association IPPA, which represented the interests of independent film and television producers and was once described by the Financial Times as "the most formidable lobbying organization in England."

In 1994, she returned to the United States where she worked on public affair campaigns in Massachusetts and with software companies trying to break into multimedia. She developed interactive multimedia products with Peter Lynch, Tom Peters, Standard & Poors and The Learning Company. She then joined CMGI where she ran, bought and sold leading Internet businesses, serving as Chief Executive Officer for InfoMation Corporation, ZineZone Corporation and iCAST Corporation. She was named one of the Internet’s Top 100 by Silicon Alley Reporter in 1999, one of the Top 25 by Streaming Media magazine and one of the Top 100 Media Executives by The Hollywood Reporter. Her "Tear Down the Wall" campaign against AOL won the 2001 Silver SABRE award for public relations.

In 2004, Margaret published The Naked Truth: A Working Woman's Manifesto about Business and What Really Matters (Jossey-Bass) and in 2007 she brought out How She Does It: How Female Entrepreneurs are Changing the Rules for Business Success. Her third book, Wilful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril (Simon & Schuster) was a finalist for the 2011 Financial Times best business book award. In 2014, she published A Bigger Prize (Simon & Schuster/Public Affairs), an examination of the costs of competition through out lives. She teaches at business schools and mentors Chief and senior executives around the world. Her TED talks have been seen by over two million people.

Entries by Margaret Heffernan

Boom Time for British Cinema?

(1) Comments | Posted May 3, 2015 | 6:52 AM

Boom and bust: Whole economies go through the cycle. So too, it seems, do creative industries. But it's looking pretty boom and bust at the moment in the U.K. film industry.

There's nothing magical about the cycle. The narrative follows a classic structure: Success followed by irrational overreach halted by...

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Is PR Really Dead?

(2) Comments | Posted February 11, 2015 | 7:18 AM

Is PR dead?

When I ran my first software business in the U.S., I was predictably eager to get the word out about the great technology we were doing. So I hired one of the big PR firms, paid them a monthly retainer, invested a lot of time in briefing...

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Turing: The Myth of the Heroic Soloist

(0) Comments | Posted February 9, 2015 | 8:02 AM

If you believe what you see in the film The Imitation Game, Alan Turing singlehandedly broke the code on Nazi Germany's Enigma machine against the active or passive opposition of numerous dull, obstructive bureaucrats. A loner from the start, only Turing had the intellect and imagination that lesser mortals couldn't...

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The Limits of Ideology: Lessons from Singapore

(26) Comments | Posted September 28, 2014 | 10:15 AM

Next year will see the 50th anniversary of the creating of Singapore, widely hailed as one of the most successful of the Asian tigers. In that short space of time, the tiny nation state has grown into one of the world's largest financial cities and most important ports. It has...

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The Pfizer Deal Touches Us All

(0) Comments | Posted May 11, 2014 | 7:15 PM

Most mergers and acquisitions don't work. With a failure rate anywhere between 50 and 80 percent, they're bad bets usually placed by leaders who've run out of ideas. This one is no different. Betting an important business on a tactic unlikely to succeed won't serve shareholders or stakeholders. Most of...

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Pfizer: The Madness of Mergers and Acquisitions Hurts Us All

(2) Comments | Posted May 8, 2014 | 1:44 AM

In pursuing Astra Zeneca for the tax benefits the U.K. company offers, Pfizer acknowledges its failure to innovate. The only strategy it has for making money is changing tax territory. What a miserable admission of failure that is.

Miserable, but probably also doomed. Depending on whose research you credit,...

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What Do Exams Prove?

(0) Comments | Posted April 24, 2014 | 6:17 AM

Heading into exam season, it's hard not to be aghast at the pressure and panic that prevails in households this time of year. My daughter alternates between grim perseverance and limp hopelessness while many of her peers surrender to hysteria at the slightest challenge. While doing their best to support...

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What's Wrong With Silicon Valley's No-Poach Rule?

(0) Comments | Posted April 23, 2014 | 12:27 PM

The antitrust lawsuit, involving 64,613 software engineers, accuses Google, Apple, Adobe and Intel of informal collusion not to hire away each others' employees. The engineers themselves maintain that this cost them earning power up to a total of some $3 billion. No one denies that such informal "no...

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Should Britain Crash the Pound?

(0) Comments | Posted April 10, 2014 | 2:57 AM

Should Britain crash the pound?

That was the proposal put forward by John Mills, founder and chairman of JML Direct, at a breakfast which he hosted and paid for. His argument went like this: the U.K. exports a startling small amount, compared to other countries. In particular, manufacturing...

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Can Serena Williams Really Teach You Anything About Business?

(3) Comments | Posted April 9, 2014 | 12:00 PM

Recently, Business Insider has been running profiles of the world's most competitive athletes. But it isn't a sports site. So have they lost their collective editorial minds?

Alas not. They're recycling one of the oldest business metaphors in the book: business as sport. Companies and executives compete....

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The Business Model of the Future

(0) Comments | Posted April 8, 2014 | 12:24 PM

The dominant myth in business is that competition drives excellence. If everyone's competing, they will work harder and produce more. But there's a problem with this argument: it is wrong. Working against others -- either individually or corporately -- doesn't produce anything except noise, friction and waste. It's working together...

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How Do We Know How Rich (or Poor) We Are?

(0) Comments | Posted March 31, 2014 | 1:39 PM

"We could be poorer - or richer - than we think. We don't really know how wealthy we are." That is the opinion of Vicky Price, economist and one-time joint head of the government's economic service. Her sense of disquiet is sparked by the fact that the standard measure of...

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Performance-Related Pay Doesn't Work

(0) Comments | Posted March 29, 2014 | 4:59 AM

Like poor managers the world over, Michael Gove believes in performance-related pay. Although not subject to this regime himself, he imagines that teachers will care about students more, be yet more passionate, focused, organized, energetic and committed if there's more money in it for them. Why would he imagine such...

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Women in UK Boardrooms at a Glacial Pace: Do We Care?

(0) Comments | Posted March 26, 2014 | 7:00 PM

The proportion of women in British boardrooms now stands at around 21% and you may be sure that many (including, inevitably, Vince Cable) will find this a cause at celebration. The Davies Commission in 2011 set as its target for 2015 25% female representation so the idea that...

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Competition Won't Make Investment Firms Transparent

(0) Comments | Posted March 26, 2014 | 5:09 AM

The True and Fair campaign wants more competition in order to make British investment firms more honest and transparent. British investors end up paying up to 58% more for their investments than their U.S. counterparts - and most of these charges are hidden amidst oceans of small print...

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Pay Contests Are About Status, Not Talent

(0) Comments | Posted March 13, 2014 | 1:34 AM

To get good people, you must pay competitive salaries. That's the argument of boards and compensation committees across the company. But it isn't true.

Charles Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and the business partner of Warren Buffett, has argued just the opposite. "People should take way less than...

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Are Men Really More Competitive Than Women?

(3) Comments | Posted February 14, 2014 | 2:38 AM

According to Caroline Spelman, ten times as many men as women apply to be a Conservative MP. Women comedians say they dislike the competitive one-upmanship of panel games and that that is one reason they're so unrepresented on British TV than Controller Danny Cohen has had to lay...

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The UK Is Not a Brand

(0) Comments | Posted February 7, 2014 | 1:29 PM

Urging British people to persuade their Scottish friends and relatives to vote against Scottish independence, David Cameron described the United Kingdom as a brand: "We come as a brand - a powerful brand... Separating Scotland out of that brand would be like separating the waters of the River Tweed and...

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Who Will Stop Michael Gove - Before It's Too Late?

(0) Comments | Posted February 4, 2014 | 6:53 AM

The shambles that masquerades as the government's education policy is riddled with incoherence, headline manufacture, tactical retreats, bias and bluster. To call this a strategy is a misnomer; it isn't nearly connected enough for that. More use of Common Entrance exams, longer school days and the selective use of the...

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What Are the Arts For?

(0) Comments | Posted February 4, 2014 | 4:14 AM

I started my career as a producer for the BBC: producing dramas and documentaries first in radio, then in television. I had the good fortune to work with some of the finest writers and performers in Britain: Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon, Alan Rickman, Jim Broadbent, Simon Callow, Bill Nighy, Nick...

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